Segrč, Emilio Gino
Segrč, Emilio Gino (1905-1989), Italian American nuclear physicist and Nobel laureate, who was born in Rome and educated at the University of Rome. With American physicist Owen Chamberlain, he detected the antiproton in 1955 (see Antimatter; Elementary Particles), using the betatron particle accelerator at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. For this they shared the 1959 Nobel Prize in physics. Segrč also took part in the discovery of the elements astatine and technetium and the isotope plutonium-239.
born Feb. 1, 1905, Tivoli, Italy
died April 22, 1989, Lafayette, Calif., U.S.
in full Emilio Gino Segrč Italian-born American physicist who was cowinner, with Owen Chamberlain of the United States, of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1959 for the discovery of the antiproton, an antiparticle having the same mass as a protonbut opposite in electrical charge.
Segrč initially began studies in engineering at the University of Rome in 1922 but later studied under Enrico Fermi and received his doctorate in physics in 1928. In 1932 Segrč was appointed assistant professor of physics at the University of Rome, and two years later he participated in neutron experiments directed by Fermi, in which many elements, including uranium, were bombarded with neutrons, and elements heavier than uranium were created. In 1935 they discovered slow neutrons, which have properties important to the operation of nuclear reactors.
Segrč left Rome in 1936 to become director of the physics laboratory at the University ofPalermo. One year later he discovered technetium, the first man-made element not found in nature. While visiting California in 1938, Segrč was dismissed from the University of Palermo by the Fascist government, so he remained in the United States as a research associate at the University of California, Berkeley. Continuing his research, he and his associates discovered the element astatine in 1940, and later, with another group, he discovered the isotope plutonium-239, which he found to be fissionable, much like uranium-235. Plutonium-239 was used in the first atomic bomb and in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
From 1943 to 1946 Segrč was a group leader at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M. He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1944 and was professor of physics at Berkeley (1946–72). In 1955, using the new bevatron particle accelerator, Segrč and Chamberlain produced and identified antiprotons and thus set the stage for the discovery of many additional antiparticles. He was appointed professor of nuclear physics at the University of Rome in 1974. He wrote several books, including Experimental Nuclear Physics (1953), Nuclei and Particles (1964), Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), and two books on the history of physics, From X-rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries (1980) and From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves (1984).